The numbers tell the story of this one.
More than 55,000 people and 1,890 exhibitors took over the Las Vegas Convention Center Sept. 24-26 for the largest mining trade show in the world — MINExpo.
Inside the convention center some of the largest machines used in mining were on display including a locomotive train at the Caterpillar exhibit.
On the show floor attendees mingled through the display and kept their spirits up despite a rash of less than cheery headlines about the mining industry.
Just before the show, Caterpillar, the largest exhibitor, slashed its 2015 earnings forecast. Joy Global also announced to its mining customers that it plans to cut spending next year.
This comes on the heels of a string of announcements of layoffs and shut downs from the coal industry.
But at the conference itself, the industry put on a brave face.
“I know there are lots of headlines out there that said mining is dead, not one more ounce of coal will ever be mined, iron ore will never come back, the world is going to stop spinning, it’s over,” said Doug Oberhelman, Caterpillar’s chief executive. “Well, it’s not over.”
With iron ore prices at three-year lows and coal prices down more than 20 percent this year, MINExpo attendees couldn’t ignore the storm clouds.
In China, the government’s recently announced stimulus is already being criticized as ineffective. And one of the country’s largest steelmakers, Baoshan Iron & Steel Co. suspended production at a key Shanghai plant.
Australia's BHP Billiton, the world’s largest miner, decided last month to scuttle its $20 billion Olympic Dam Mine expansion.
“Mining is a cyclical business, but I think this latest downturn caught everybody off guard,” said David Grzelak, chairman of heavy equipment maker Komatsu America, which spent more than $7 million on its MINExpo display booth, according to the Chicago Tribune. “We haven’t had a lot of cancellations, but we’ve had a lot of customers push out delivery.”
For the show itself, though, business has never been better.
Caterpillar, which acquired Bucyrus in 2010, showed off more than 25 pieces of large equipment in its display. It shut down early-morning Las Vegas traffic before the show by bringing in a coal-hauling locomotive on a big rig - with the city's street lights timed so it could move quickly to the site. The convention center's floor was reinforced just so that Caterpillar could put the locomotive on display - and remind attendees, as it did several times, that the big machine is for sale. (Cost? More than $3 million.)
“We really view this MINExpo to be our coming-out party,” said Steve Wunning, the Caterpillar executive who oversees the mining business.